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The House We Built - Artistic Optimism And You

A cast taking a much earned bow, we’re sure, at the Royal Opera House. Lemon and Honey tea all round, gang!

A cast taking a much earned bow, we’re sure, at the Royal Opera House. Lemon and Honey tea all round, gang!

Hello Baz-ites! Team Baz here, salutations! It’s been a fair while, but be assured we are busy bees with some exciting stuff in the offing, it’s all very exciting, eee...and all to be revealed soon. In the haze of activity here at Baz HQ, we just wanted to take a minute, just a few, to recognise, in the face of all this hostility that’s enveloping the country, how the arts are starting  slowly, to resist division and lift each other up. The arts are a lot of things: underfunded, mainly, and whilst it has shown itself to be making moves in a positive direction we here at Baz implore the arts community to go further, be better and more unified than ever before.

We’d be pretty removed from reality if we weren’t aware of the deep political divisions threatening the unity of this country, and Baz is resolutely not one for internet mudslinging -but we aim to make our views clear through our use of the classics. We originally founded Baz to address the lack of classical roles for women, in order to be the change that we wanted to see. We started out in that way, yet through the years (10 of them, count them, happy birthday to us) we have seen the arts slowly evolving into a platform for all kinds of voices that before now had been ignored. We also realised that our take on the classics would be so much more powerful if told by a whole slew of talent that the arts, generally for centuries had ignored. We here at Baz saw that the status quo was in need of opposition - and we felt compelled to speak up about it. For too long classical stories were told only one way, and by the same kind of people and we wanted to disrupt that.

But hey, let’s be honest that’s all very well and good, but we all need bums on seats don’t we - and we all use Twitter and social media for promotion, as we should. However, out there, in the real world, there has never been so much inclusivity, with mother and baby matinees, actors with varying abilities enjoying more visibility than ever before - there has been much more noise in hard hitting pieces for The Stage about the disproportionate gender difference between the number of male to female playwrights. Generally there has been much softening of the arts towards women - and towards the BAME and LGBTQ artists too, with bursaries available at Talawa and The Soho designed to support these communities. Also in class structure: Working Class Artists on twitter is a hub of opportunity and encouragement for art’s general struggle with hierarchy.

This confusing online/offline disconnect in theatre goes against the grain. Traditionally art brings together, celebrates, discusses, supports. Our online community should reflect that. Art does, after all reflect society. Gone are the days in centuries past, where theatre is both a tool of the monarchy and of the state - Ampitheatres acted as news bulletins, the Globe allowed people to learn without reading, and the nobles, kings and queens in the castles used the players to try to guilt each other into admitting to murder...or are we getting our Shakespeare muddled? Either way, theatre and politics have been uncomfortable bedfellows over the years, and their pillowtalk has been plenty. We should indeed, hold any action a theatre or company takes that is reductive, negative or non-progressive to task and undoubtedly the best way to do so is online, but we should also lift each other up and support. 

It’s small, and young but the positivity is starting to bloom.The arts community, apart from great lip service, also puts its money where its mouth is. We were so very saddened to hear that, the excellent Graeae Theatre company, who we much admire, suffered some structural damage to their offices in Hoxton. Our hearts went out to them, and frankly, it put a worrying precedent in our heads, especially as with the roar of political unrest becoming, despite our best efforts, a low-level hum that underpins most things. Despite the worry, once again the arts community took non combative action and donated money and their support so that Graeae can maintain the great work they do. A win for the enlightened and kind.

And it’s spreading, all this goodwill: we scroll ArtTwitter now and theatre companies and professionals are retweeting each other’s Kickstarters, foregoing traditional job postings by appealing directly to like-minded individuals, supporting each other’s works in progress, going emoji-crazy for their friend/artistic crush/colleague’s first night - and all this on the same app Trump uses. Change is happening. Big arts organisations too are picking up the mantel - just a few days ago Spotlight held an industry conference to welcome debate, discussion and to show what they are doing to make casting a more even playing field, the Royal Society of Literature funded a nation-wide survey so that writers could explain and ask for the things that would make their craft easier, and more fair. Across the board, discussions are being had, thoughts are being heard, and efforts are being made.

Impressive house we building, here. It has many bedrooms, welcomes all, and has a great sea view.

There’s a succinct difference between inaction and not engaging. In our opinion, the arts is learning to not engage in the mudslinging, the faux wringing of the hands or most importantly the sinking to their level. Quietly, but firmly, the arts, and theatre itself is doing it’s best to be more inclusive, more welcoming and push a Utopia that frankly, we’d all like and deserve to live in. Here at Baz, our mission statement from the start has been to commit to 50/50 gender casting, whilst maintaining our original aim of shaking up the classics in women’s favour. Over time, this mission statement has spread to encompass representation from a wider variety of communities that we see in our society, and for the same reason, that of marginalisation. For example, we’ve been honoured these last few years to make such wonderful friends and contacts that inspire us on our journey: from learning basic BSL ourselves, attending wonderful workshops that explain the necessity of Relaxed Performances and how they are needed, and also how they are implemented and just generally how to reflect the theatre we see and respect flourishing in these dark times. 

Blimey. We’re all excited now - and beyond to show you all what we’re cooking up! Soon, Bazzers. Soon.

Until then, keep it up - truth, freedom and love. Put that on your t-shirt.

And because we love it so, here is the excellent Sophie Stone giving her Jacques from As You Like It: All The World's A Stage, But This One Right Here Is Sophie's

Much love, fight on! (in that cool way you do)
Baz x







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Signals: A Baz Blog on Good Things in the Theatre

Rakish Charm...Gwyneth Paltrow showing that all you need is a cod-piece, a false beard, firm handshake and you've made it. You're an actor in Shakey times! Shakespeare In Love, 1999

Hi there Baztecs! (too weird? Sorry.) I know right? Two Blog posts in a week! Well, it’s only because we love you all so much – and like the ‘fun aunt’ we’ll keep going with the treats until there is an Augustus Gloop type situation. We are looking forward to that. Anyway, we here at Baz like to chat and share what we are up to, and how we respond to modern British theatre: what it encourages and what it lacks, and thought this Baz Blog should be shining a light on positive signals and flares coming from the theatre world – and things that get Baz excited and pleased to be part of the landscape. Bullet points ahoy!  

 

 

  • The Tate Modern gets its first-ever-in-the-history-of ever female director in Francis Morris  http://www.a-n.co.uk/news/new-director-of-tate-modern-announced (Baz heard this name on the radio and assumed it was another male appointment and then nearly spat tea everywhere) Fantastic to have a woman running a big building in central London, looking forward for visiting + inspirations very soon.

 

 

  • A forever shout out to the all round good folk/fiercely talented/ dedicated/ samaritans/warroriors at Act For Change working to banish theatre inequality based on gender, race, sexuality, and disability are a treasure trove of sources of material, wonderful events and talks and the latest news: http://www.act-for-change.com

 

  • And another shoutout to the fantastic work that the fantastic people at Sphinx Theatre  produce, with regular groundbreaking shows, talks and salons on tackling how 52% of the population speak for such a small number of voices in the arts http://www.sphinxtheatre.co.uk and also to Talawa Theatre Company with vibrant, important work and opportunites  always reaching out to the BAME community, and with an wonderful version of King Lear in Birmingham and a smash with Theresa Ikoko’s Girls, it has remained a touchstone of emerging talent and new writing:  http://www.talawa.com/about/ and the same can certainly be said of Tamasha Theatre http://www.tamasha.org.uk who continue to offer wonderful opportunities for new writers and work about the multiculturalism of Britain today.

 

 

  • How could we ignore the momentous occasion that is an female Henry V about to open at the Open Air Theatre in honour of Shakespeare 400 and bound to be every bit of a chest-bump as the original as well as a pleasing reversal of the Shakespearian male: female ratio. 
    https://openairtheatre.com/production/henry-v

 

  • And finally, Bechdel Theatre's awesome work and aims are surpassed by their new venture of recommending Bechdel-passing theatre, setting a date, visiting in a group then discussing it afterwards with the actors, writers and directors. Like some kind of awesome book club but with moving people – the next one in in July: https://bechdeltheatre.com/bechdel-theatre-festival/

 

There. That should sort of set you up, for forever. No need to thank us (there’s no expectation, really, so bin that box of chocolates idea...really) just do so by getting out there and experiencing the art, the culture and the something a little bit off the main path. Then talk about it, gesticulating wildly with red wine in hand. Everyone’s a winner. Just remember white wine doesn’t get red wine out of cotton. That’s a myth.

Just a tip.

Happy theatre-ing! You lucky so-and-sos.

Baz x

 

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